When former Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal was sworn in as governor of Sokoto State on May 29, the attention of the nation was shifted to the historical state, with the genuine prospect of ‘continued change’ rising among citizens.
This was expected, largely because of the pedigree Tambuwal built while representing the people of Kebbe-Tambuwal Federal Constituency in the National Assembly and his subsequent success as citizen Number Four in the hierarchy of protocol in the federation.
Tambuwal campaigned for the new position on the premise of continuing with most of the programmes of the previous administration of Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko in Sokoto State. This was evident in his numerous speeches before, during and after the elections.
The need for the ‘continued change’ mantra was necessary, since both politicians not only belonged to the same political party, but were from the same political family whose cords were coupled together years back. But like all individuals, it was an established fact that even though continuity of policies is guaranteed, governance style is a product of individual peculiarity, since all persons are born different and unique.
Rather than feel any difference in individual composition between the last and present administrations, the foundation laid by Tambuwal in the last 100 plus days has heightened the already spiralling expectation of the public. The new approach to governance has galvanised the populace and attracted attention not just nationally, but also among development partners and other interest groups. The people have been co-opted and their input sought in the effort to improve their wellbeing and build on the foundation laid in preceding years. Of priority for him at the moment is institutional reform. He has repeatedly said that when the institutions are on sound footing, the journey will be smoother.
What we have been served by Tambuwal is a development module that integrates Sokoto’s historical peculiarity and huge potential, while seeking to modernise all aspects of its life. Knowing well that no human endeavour will move successfully without quality education, Tambuwal made the revamping of the sector his top priority. Within days of taking over the reins of affairs, he received an unusual request from Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar, to introduce a school transportation system for children in the state. His thinking was that with this arrangement on ground, learning will be enhanced. Tambuwal promptly took up the challenge. Modalities for implementation are currently being developed, pending budgetary approval from the state legislature.
In a bid to boost enrollment figures and halt historical anomaly, government announced a policy that will criminalise the refusal to send children to school. The policy, seen as both radical and revolutionary, has drawn applause from social commentators and other stakeholders. This was followed immediately by recruitment of 500 teachers to address the shortfall in teaching personnel in public secondary schools.
Then also, in Sokoto, emphasis is now on technical education to ensure all students who graduate from secondary school are equipped with necessary skills for self-reliance. Feasibility studies have been completed for the opening of entrepreneurship development centres in the three senatorial zones of the state.
In the areas of employment and youth empowerment, a few weeks back, government started the registration of 25,000 youths expected to benefit from a skills acquisition scheme over a two-year period. In the coming weeks, government will unveil a special training scheme for artisans and semi-skilled professionals, to enhance output and marketing potential for their products. Sokoto government has also signed an MoU with the Usman Danfodio University for the training of nurses and birth attendants, whose services will be deployed in all parts of the state. To appreciate Sokoto indigenes studying health-related courses, government has offered them automatic employment upon successful completion of their studies.
Much has happened in the health sector in Sokoto in the last 100 days. After paying unscheduled late-night visits to public hospitals to assess things for himself, Tambuwal announced an increment in the allowances paid itinerant health care workers who frequent rural areas to render services to those in need. To enhance the use of life-saving drugs, government began the distribution of free drugs to pregnant women and those who gave birth in public hospitals or private health care centres under government supervision in the rural areas.
Consultations have also started on efforts to introduce a health insurance scheme in Sokoto State. The scheme is part of measures to decentralise the National Health Insurance Scheme for optimum performance. Governor Tambuwal said that seeking the views of religious scholars and traditional rulers is essential for its future success. Due to space constraint, let me say that social welfare schemes met by Tambuwal have been enhanced, with the ultimate objective of ensuring that all citizens feel the impact of government at all levels.
In agriculture, Tambuwal started out by reclaiming a huge expanse of irrigation land abandoned since colonial times. With it, the new drive to enhance rice farming has received a boost. Government has also opened discussions with the Central Bank of Nigeria, to open a new credit line in addition to existing facilities, so as to modernise the farming, packaging, storage and export of rice from Sokoto.
Tambuwal has already appealed to the federal government to stop granting waivers to rice exporters, in order to assist local producers.
In housing, Tambuwal last week laid the foundation stone for a 250-housing units Caliphate Workers Estate, to be sited at Kasarawa along the airport road in Sokoto. Three other estates initiated by the last administration will be commissioned early next year with a combined capacity of 1300 housing units. At the last Sokoto Business Forum, Aso Loans and Savings Ltd announced that it will construct 4000 houses over a four-year period in Sokoto.
On security, apart from sustaining cooperation with various security agencies serving in the state, Tambuwal ordered all hotels in Sokoto to, from next year, ensure that all guests present valid ID cards as a condition for lodging.
An innovative approach to environmental sanitation was unveiled, where government gave a monetary incentive for the cleanest neighbourhood in Sokoto. The policy has attracted interest from all parts of the state. On days designated for sanitation, huge crowds flock to the streets with brooms and shovels in a bid to win Tambuwal’s N2.3m on offer.
On the important matter of bills and legislation, to demonstrate government’s commitment to have a legal framework and institutionalise reforms, work on nine bills has been completed. They are the Sokoto Commodity Board Bill, Sokoto Criminal Justice Law Reform Bill, Anti-Child Pornography and Cyber Crimes Bill, State Mortgage Bill, Sokoto Education Reform Bill, Sokoto Geographic Information Systems Bill, Sokoto Transport Management Agency Bill, Sokoto Primary Healthcare Development Bill and Sokoto Environmental Protection Agency Bill.
This article was originally published on Thisday.